Professional motor racing remains a widely male-dominated field, and while a female world champion has yet to emerge at the highest level, there is an increasing number of trailblazers helping to normalise the sight of women competing with the best drivers in the world.
In F1 history there have been only five women drivers, the last of whom, Giovanna Amati, drove for the manufacturer Brabham in 1992, which turned out to be its last year in the competition as its owners were investigated for fraud. Amati drove in three qualifying sessions in a car that had not been improved on the previous year, and failed to make the starting grid. She went on to have a successful career outside of F1, finishing 3rd overall in the 1999 SportsRacing World Cup.
Of the others, only two have posted finishes: Maria Teresa de Filippis, who finished 10th in the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix, and the remarkable Lella Lombardi, who recorded seven finishes out of twelve starts between 1975-6, including a sixth place at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, the best finish by a woman in F1. Currently, Scottish driver Susie Wolff and Spaniard María de Villota Comba work as test drivers for Williams and Marussia respectively. Both have enjoyed long careers in touring car and sports car championships.
Fifteen women have competed at national level in NASCAR, all but two of whom started their careers post-2000. Of those two, Patty Moise drove 133 races in the Nationwide Series and achieved four top-ten finishes, after débuting at the age of sixteen in 1986. The following year she fielded her own team, the #37 Red Roof Inns Buick, and in 1990 reached her highest overall finish of 22nd, currently the best achieved by a woman driver. The other, Shawna Robinson, became the first woman to gain a NASCAR pole at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1994, and totalled 61 career starts.
More recently, Danica Patrick, who has already made her name in Indycar racing, has added her fourth career top-ten finish in just her third season in NASCAR, ranking 11th overall and on pace to become the most successful woman NASCAR driver in history. Also competing this season is Johanna Long, a 19 year old from Florida who is currently 21st overall after three top twenty finishes in her first six races. In her first Sprint Cup race earlier this year, Patrick finished 38th, after a pile-up in lap two caused five drivers to temporarily leave the race for extensive windscreen repair.
As mentioned, Patrick’s Indycar career has been excellent, gaining her first win at the 2008 Indy Japan 300, finishing 5th overall in 2009 while driving for Andretti Green Racing, including a podium finish at the Indy 500. Since then she has gained two 2nd places at the Firestone 550 and Cafés do Brasil Indy 300. Over 114 races she has gained three poles, one win, six podiums and an amazing 63 top tens.
Even after Patrick’s departure this year to race in NASCAR Nationwide, there are two female drivers competing: Ana “Bia” Beatriz and Katherine Legge, who is currently 25th after four races for Lotus-Dragon Racing.
Although many feel that professional motorsports is an unlikely venue for cultural change, some commentators have pointed out racing is ideal for equal competition, where machinery removes most of the physical advantages men enjoy in other sports. Though we cannot expect these developments to effect instant overnight changes in attitude, it’s an encouraging step in the right direction.
Catherine Halsey writes for a digital marketing company on a range of topics. This artcle links back to http://www.obrienglass.com.au/windscreen-repair.2172.0.html.